Researchers suggest ancient round 'tools' were actually weapons

Ancient stone objects are often rudimentary in design and, due to their age and possible exposure to the elements, sometimes lacking in finer details. This can make it difficult to discern what exactly any particular discovery is, and few things are more ambiguous than simple stone spheres. Were previously discovered round hand-sized stones used as tools? Researchers have thought so, but a new study suggests they may actually have been used as projectile weapons.

According to a study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers with Indiana University Bloomington and other institutions have found that small round stones discovered in South Africa may have been weapons rather than tools. The weapons would have been used for both hunting purposes and for tribal defense, though researchers suggest they could have also been repurposed as tools when needed.

Speaking about the study, IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences professor (and study author) Geoffrey Bingham said:

Our study suggests that the throwing of stones played a key role in the evolution of hunting. We don't think that throwing is the sole, or even primary, function of these spheroids, but these results show that this function is an option that warrants reconsidering as a potential use for this long-lived, multipurpose tool.

These particular stone spheres were found in Makapan Valley's Cave of Hearths almost three decades ago. Researchers say they were used between 1.8m and 70,000 years ago; many have puzzled over how they were used. This new conclusion is based in part on computational models that looked at a total of 55 stone sphere and found that 81% of them are the idea shape, size and weight for throwing and hitting a target up to 25 meters away.

SOURCE: Indiana University Bloomington